Palo Alto's ambitious plan to build a bridge over U.S. Highway 101 near Adobe Creek in south Palo Alto could receive a lift Monday night when the City Council considers various design options for the new overpass.
The project's chief goal is to create a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to easily cross 101 and reach the Palo Alto Baylands. Many currently rely on a dilapidated underpass at Adobe Creek, which is usually open between April and October but which occasionally closes because of flooding.
The council will discuss a feasibility study for the new crossing on Monday and consider the study's recommended solution -- an overcrossing that staff estimates will cost between $5.4 million and $9.4 million, depending on the design.
Staff and the city's consulting firm, Alta Planning + Design, chose an overcrossing at Adobe Creek over other alternatives, including an Adobe Creek undercrossing, an overcrossing at Loma Verde Avenue and both an overcrossing and an undercrossing at Matadero Creek. Staff had already hosted several community meetings, during which time residents chose Adobe Creek as their preferred location for crossing 101. Consultants concluded that an overcrossing would be a better alternative than an undercrossing because it would remain open all year.
"The overcrossing provides year-round access to recreational, residential and employment areas and is anticipated to have the highest recreational and commuter use compared to the undercrossing altnerative," Project Engineer Holly Boyd wrote in a new report.
The idea of giving pedestrians and bicyclists year-round access to the Baylands is far from new. The city's Comprehensive Plan identifies a new crossing as a major need, as does the city's 2003 Bicycle Transportation Master Plan. The city's new Bicyclist & Pedestrian Transportation Plan, the draft of which was released earlier this year, also identifies a need for the new crossing.
So far, the biggest obstacle to the project is cost. The Planning and Transportation Commission, which reviewed the overcrossing proposal in August, was generally receptive to the proposed bridge but asked staff to consider less costly options than the "enhanced overcrossing" alternative recommended in the feasibility study. The "enhanced" alternative would feature wider lanes (14 feet, as opposed to the standard 10 feet), an observation platform overlooking the Baylands, fencing and lighting.
Consultants and Public Works staff concluded that the overcrossing alternative is superior to the undercrossing option "primarily to its year round availability and the community's perception about safety," Boyd wrote in the report.
"In addition when compared to the Adobe undercrossing, the overcrossing poses less compatibility issues with the existing Creek channel and the Water District's concerns about flooding," the reports states.
The cost of the enhanced overcrossing is estimated at $6.4 million to $9.4 million, while the standard alignment is expected to cost between $5.4 million and $6.7 million. Staff may also consider an option that combines elements of the two alignments.
The city hopes the bulk of the funds for the project would come from federal and state grants, as well as from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Bicycle Expenditure Program.